About Bassington

Lassata mundo, nondum satiata

A Modest Proposal

A Business Plan

Observation #1: Lots of Chinese businesses want to deal with Africa.

Observation #2:  Anecdotal evidence (mainly from Chinese Alliance française branches) indicates a demand for services that will help them do this.

Observation #3: While certain organisations do exist to facilitate Sino-African trade (http://www.chnafrica.org/, http://www.ifeizhou.com/, http://www.sinotf.com/, etc.), these are mainly Chinese-run with links to the state, rather than locally based organisations. Continue reading


In Which I Regret Not Having Done A Classics Degree Instead

If I had to pick the single best question to ask someone at a speed dating event, it would be “rank the tragedians, from your favourite to your least favourite”. Granted it’s actually a challenge rather than a question, but anyone anal enough to point that out would be out of the running ex-officio.

If Aeschylus were alive today he would be a Balliol don in his 80s. It is inconceivable that he could ever be wrong about anything. Ever. And anyone who suggested as much would be blown to smithereens with an A-bomb of portentious, port-soaked iambics. And his little bottle of oil. Like colonialism, smoking and raping the domestics, we’re all supposed to disapprove of that sort of thing these days, but I actually rather enjoy the certainty of it. I think a lot of actors do too. Like Forbidden Broadway‘s “As Long as He Needs Me” parody: “I’ll suffer Cameron’s scorn/ I’ll limp for Matthew Bourne/ I’ll dress like I’m in porn…” Ted Hughes did a not-especially-accurate-but-still-good translation, which should ideally be read with a glass of brandy in one hand and System of a Down’s Toxicity on the stereo. (Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath: another good question for a speed dating evening. Either that or Harry Hill’s TV Burp.) Continue reading

L’anthropologie du mensonge

Il y a un arrêt sur la ligne une à Paris – je me rappelle plus lequel exactement, c’est vers la Défense – à côté duquel se trouve un bâtiment occupé par les services secrets de la République. Si, par hasard, on se trouve à cet arrêt vers 8h45, on peut se régaler du spectacle de tous les espions de la République qui descendent du train pour aller au taff; des rangs serrés d’anciens militaires insérés dans des costumes de mauvaise taille. C’est hilarant… Ben… si on est, comme moi, facile à amuser.

Le britanniques sont souvent étonnés de savoir que leur vieux ennemi leur attribue un capacité de subterfuge plus tordu que le Mossad, plus impitoyable que le KGB. En effet, il est vrai que les espions britanniques ne ressemblent pas à des espions. Ils ressemblent à des prêtres et des informaticiens et, assez souvent, à des vielles tapettes picolées. La plupart du temps ils ressemblent également à des idiots, mais ça c’est normal; c’est une sorte de tenue tribale traditionnelle chez les rosbifs .

Les espions français, par contre, ressemblent toujours plus ou moins à des espions. Pourquoi?

Le premier problème sur lequel nous tombons est celui auquel a du faire face Socrate dans la République : un menteur habile ne ressemble pas à un menteur. Continue reading

Comment passer le concours du Quai pour les nuls

I was going to write this in French, on the basis that anyone who’d be remotely interested speaks French, but I started to get bored about three words into the title and changed my mind. I was also going to structure it. Then I realised that il faut être résoluement post moderne, and structure is for pussies. So here’s my guide to taking the exams for the Quai d’Orsay.

1. I can see you. Yeah. You, right there. Trying to intimidate me with your little foreign drinks bottle, acting like you just got back from an important job in Foreignistan. Let me tell you, I’ve been intimidated by far better men than you, and they didn’t need a bottle of Russian orange juice to do it either.

You want high level strategic thinking? Well we’ve got this.

2. The language exam where you have to write a synthesis in a foreign language of foreign newspaper articles only looks intimidating. It’s basically a test of your copying skills. Quotes, stats, whole sentences. Jam ’em in there. If you’re really good the only parts you have to come up with yourself will be the conjunctions. Sure, you have to juggle them round a bit, but unless you just copy out an article wholesale it’s basically impossible to be too shameless. This is called having an esprit de synthèse.

3. Quite often in the multiple choice part of the language exam they put the easiest questions at the end. Yes, this is precisely the sort of team you’re going to be joining. Continue reading

64 Options

In one of the early chapters of the Kama Sutra Vatsyayana gives a list of the subjects that little aristocratic and bourgeois girls should study. Of course it includes the usual suspects – writing, drawing, singing etc., but there are a lot of suprising entries as well: architecture, military strategy, formal logic… Here it is, if you’re interested: http://www.sacred-texts.com/sex/kama/kama103.htm

I always thought that, should I have the misfortune to have any children, and should they by some miracle survive to an age as to require education, this is what I’d teach them. I’d make one or two changes, of course. After all, “arraying and adorning an idol with rice and flowers” is a skill that I find gets less and less useful every day. I’d add in driving, computer programming and law, but that’s about it.

And I’d be completely wrong, obviously. They could be the best cook/chemist/gardner in the world, but no one would ever find out for lack of a BEP and two years’ experience in a French company.

On the bright side, they wouldn’t starve. Vatsyayana also advises parents to ensure that their children are instructed in “the 64 means of enjoyment”: possibly the last career in which no state-sponsored qualifications are necessary.

What it mostly boils down to is that I spent this week applying for jobs with SMS sex chat services.